Proposed changes to SCC regulations defeated

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The proposal to lower the U.S. somatic cell count regulatory level was rejected by a one-vote margin at the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) this week.

Conference delegates voted 26 to 25 prior to the conclusion of the biennial meeting in Baltimore, Md., not to lower the U.S. Grade A standard to 400,000 cells per ml starting in 2014. Therefore, the current SCC regulatory limit of 750,000 cells per ml remains in effect.

“Since it’s been nearly 20 years since the current standard was established, we believed it was time to make changes that improve the nation’s milk supply,” says Jamie Jonker, NMPF vice president of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs. “It’s regrettable that this approach isn’t the one taken by NCIMS. However, we’re confident that the trend towards lower Somatic Cell Counts will continue, regardless of the vote today.”

Jonker adds that legislation to reduce the somatic cell count (SCC) level has been introduced in Congress, and that international buyers are also looking at U.S. SCC levels with greater scrutiny. For example, the European Union already requires that individual farms meet the 400,000 cells per ml limit to quality for export certification.

Those pressures “may result in changes to SCC limits being forced by a process outside of the NCIMS, which would be unfortunate if it results in regulations that are not as workable for dairy farmers,” according to Jonker.

Anne Saeman, executive director for the National Mastitis Council (NMC), says the organization has a long tradition of supporting lowered SCC levels and is disappointed in the outcome.

Previous NMC SCC proposals were considered (and subsequently rejected by NCIMS) in 2005, 2003, 2001, and 1999.

The last time NCIMS took action to lower the SCC limit was at the 1991 Conference, when the voting delegates approved an amended NMC proposal which lowered the SCC from 1,000,000 to 750,000, effective July 1, 1993. The original proposal submitted by NMC was to lower the SCC from 1,000,000 to 500,000 over the course of three years.

Opponents maintain that SCC levels are not a human health issue, and because of that, should not be regulated under the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. In addition, opponents argue, the standards will be difficult for small and southern dairy farms to maintain.

National SCC averages are in the range of 227,000, so the impact of this change would have been felt mainly by the roughly 11 percent of the milk supply that periodically exceeds a 400,000 cells per ml limit.


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Myles Kent    
North of the 49th  |  May, 05, 2011 at 09:25 AM

Get in the game folks !!! If other countries can easily achieve and abide by the 400,000 SCC Standard and do it within as harsh environmental conditions as any State, then don't use that excuse to say it can't be done. 400,000 SCC is achieveable. If there is a will then there is a way. Get in the game folks !!!

addison  |  May, 05, 2011 at 10:47 AM

I am in full agreement with you, with all the help available to lower SCC, this should have easily passed.

WI  |  May, 05, 2011 at 10:24 AM

We bailed the Europeans out of 2 World Wars, Took the lead in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya, Who or what gives them the right to dictate us what the SCC count should be.

Myles Kent    
North of the 49th Parallel  |  May, 05, 2011 at 11:12 AM

To dfarmer .... you are missing the point. This is not about wars, or being pushed around or told what to do. This is about moving the industry along in a direction that improves the 'quality of milk' that is produced and marketed to consumers. As someone who has been directly involved in the dairy industry all my life (and many years as a producer), it is in every dairy producer's best interest to produce the best quality milk he/she can. There is a mountain of material to show that milk quality is improved by lowering individual and herd SCC levels. Quality in terms of shelf life, flavour, high processed product yields, and improved protein quality. In addition, as producers, we benefit by culling fewer cows due to udder health problems, higher milk production closer to the cow's genetic ability, fewer treatment costs, less discarded milk, and lower risk of milk contaminants. From a marketing perspective, we as an industry gain big time because we are producing and shipping a higher quality product to our customers. That is who pays our bills. Show me an industry that doesn't pay attention to the quality of product that it produces for its customer. With only 11% of the US milk supply 'periodically exceeding 400,000 SCC limit', what is the issue here? Lower the darn Limit in 3 years, which gives lots of time for all to get on board, then come 2014 when the limit is 400,000 SCC, then boast and promote the quality aspects of your product. As I said before, 'get in the game'. There is no excuse. thank you.

May, 05, 2011 at 12:35 PM

I work as DHIA Field Tech in central Stearns county Freeport Mn. DHIA is one of the many tools to help lower your SCC. Lowering SCC will result in more dollars for the dairy farmer, and milk quality improves greatly! A quality product consumers young and old will continue to drink and enjoy ice cold. Ron Gruber DHIA Field Tech

Robert Milligan    
MN  |  May, 05, 2011 at 01:58 PM

The issue in the vote was whether SCC is a health issue. That can be debated. The issue of whether SCC is a quality measure cannot be debated. It is time for the industry through producer coperatives and pressure on proprietary handlers to step up and set 400,000 as the quality standard.

Bill Rowekamp    
Minnesota  |  May, 05, 2011 at 04:00 PM

The funding for NCIMS needs to be pulled! Buy this vote, they have made themselves irrelevent to the dairy industry and are hurting US dairymen. There is no reason any US dairymen cannot meet this lower scc standard.

NY  |  May, 05, 2011 at 05:52 PM

This is just gross! Gross to the farmers who are willing to sell milk over 400K, gross to the processors who buy it. SHAME on the industry!!! This is just the news your consumers want to hear. Kudos! This is not about the European standards, this is about an industry that is unwilling to deliver better quality products and create an image that the consumer demands.

Bill Odom    
LA  |  May, 05, 2011 at 07:24 PM

Hurray to the ones that are smart enough to know that the current 750,000 is more than what is required. There is no health issue, so why change. Dont give in to what goes on else where. Stand your ground in this country!

wisconsin  |  May, 06, 2011 at 04:49 AM

Well said Myles. Why not put out a quality product. Maybe the milk plants will enforce this rule on their own if they want to export milk. For those who refuse to comply maybe it is time to get out of the business. Sometimes people it might only be one cows causing the problem. Like Myles said get in the game people!

Stephanie Schafer    
Michigan  |  May, 06, 2011 at 06:26 AM

Dawn you are totally right. A SCC of 400,000 is not hard to achieve, and it does add to the bottom line in the milk check. Thanks for your great comments.

retired d farmer Female    
Wisconsin  |  May, 06, 2011 at 08:29 AM

Doesn,t everyone know that you can't make good cheese at all with milk that has a high scc. We need a quality product and big dairy farms of the future manage that now by pasturizing nd feeding the High celled cows milk to they caleves under 2 months.

Idaho  |  May, 06, 2011 at 11:42 AM

Same old story....NO GUTS!! NO GLORY. It is shameful that this country doesn't have the guts to set standards to improve milk quality. High SCC producers are parasites living off of the producers of high quality milk, as it takes high quality milk to blend down poor quality milk to make it legal. SCC is an indication of herd health and animal well being. If you run >750,000 you should not be qualified to milk cows as you obviously are not very good at it!!! If you are >400,000 you better figure it out because this issue is not going away. How do you defend these kind of results to a consumer. You wonder why fluid milk sales are flat with an increasing is based on quality and TASTE!! To the leaders in this industry....STEP UP or STAND DOWN!!

Shari Chamberlain    
Minnesota  |  May, 06, 2011 at 09:35 PM

It may be true that southern producers face challenges in producing quality milk, small dairies can shine! According to Minnesota DHIA 2010 annual summary, 61% of all the dairies listed on the Quality Leader list are herds smaller than 100 cows. There are 227 herds listed, the lowest SCC score is 41,000 average for the year. The highest herds listed had an average of 173,000 SCC for the year. These dairymen realize the importance of producing a quality product! They are probably receiving quality premiums that reward them well for their added effort. It's too bad that 11% of producers have not seen the light on this. Lowering SCC is a win-win situation! Good dairymen will continue to do what is right regardless of the rule.

Small Dairy Farmer    
Northern Vermont  |  May, 09, 2011 at 08:44 AM

Small dairy checking in. 25 cows milking. 86,000 SCC. No problem here with 400,000 requirement.

Wisconsin  |  May, 10, 2011 at 11:24 AM

Re the comment "we bailed them out in WWI, WW2" etc., Dr Johnson is credited with saying that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundel" You can't tell the rest of the world what to do. In this case change "scoundrel" to "fool", this kind of empty patriotism is leading the country down the wrong road. Get with it if you want to compete in world markets and have a future for your children and grandchildren.

California  |  May, 10, 2011 at 10:48 AM

Producers need to remember that they don't need organizations like NCIMS or IDFA or NMPF to stipulate the quality of your milk as it relates to the SCC levels that are or will become your standards. Try a bit of self-reliance. Try taking control of your own future. Try managing your own sector of the industry, the quality of the product the production of the product and the management of that product after production. For people who claim and even demand independence, there has never been a group of American Businessmen so dependent on everybody and everything. You want to make a difference in what you get paid for your milk, continue to improve it's quality; get it done now, and start working together to manage both the production of your milk and the management of your milk in the market place. You will love the difference. You say you are independent, you ought to start showing it.

Keith Knutson    
MN  |  May, 10, 2011 at 11:37 AM

Most all of the creameries (that export product) have already implimented a 400,000 scc max. They are doing it thru the premium and DISCOUNT programs. DISCOUNTS BEGIN at 401,000 scc! If you think a dairy can survive by producing a product at a discount to the posted class 3 milk price you are sadly mistaken!!! The only way for THAT dairy to survive is to be getting some other BONUS (maybe a quantity one). I see one (and possibly others not yet anticipated) problem resulting from a federal law setting the legal limit at 400,000 scc will be the elimination of premiums currently being paid to dairy farmers. Creameries do not "make" money from low scc milk, they "collect" money thru discounts they charge dairy producers that market milk with a level of scc above a set "amount". This pool of "collected" money is where the creamery draws money from to pay the premiums. The creamery in the simplest form "robs Peter to pay Paul". By setting the legal limit down to a arbitrary limit of 400,000 you will remove the premium's souce of funding. Be careful of what you wish for, you just may get it..... and everything that comes along with it! Best wishes to those of us still left producing natures most perfect food.


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